(Busch Stadium) St. Louis Cardinals rookie Paul DeJong got off to a pretty impressive start when he hit a home run in his first big league at bat on May 28th. But what he’s done over the last couple of days has taken it to another level.
A day after missing the cycle by a triple, DeJong had a home run and not one, not two, but three more doubles this afternoon as the Cardinals beat the Mets 4-1.
“Just one of those days, in the zone and seeing it really well and not thinking too much,” downplayed DeJong. “Just going out there and trying to see the ball down middle and hit it really, that’s as simple as I can be.”
The last five games, DeJong is hitting .625 (10-16) and has homered in back-to-back games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, DeJong is the first Cardinals shortstop to record four extra base hits in a game, as well as their first number eight hitter to do so.
“I’m just controlling my emotions in the box,” he said. “Not trying to create anything. At times, I can get out of my zone and swing at pitches that I shouldn’t be swinging at when I try to do too much. So really just trying to keep it as simple as possible.”
Since he was recalled on June 15th, DeJong has appeared in 23 straight games, starting and playing a complete game in all but two of them. Though he has done well, controlling the emotions he referenced has been an adjustment.
“It’s been an up and down year, emotionally, for me,” shared DeJong on Friday. “Having a breather sometimes helps, kind of relax and unwind. Just watch the game and not being in those high pressure situations, but I feel good and we’ve got a few more games before the All-Star game so going to push hard and try to get some wins.”
The pressure isn’t from making a mistake in the field or not getting a hit at the plate.
“No, I think the reason I ascended so quickly in the minors was my ability to compartmentalize 0-4 days and just flush it,” DeJong explained. “Come back to the park the next day and have the clear purpose and routine that you’ve gotta stick to. Baseball can get tedious, but that’s the only way for me to be consistently playing at my best or my highest level every day.”
Not starting this past Thursday, DeJong was able to enjoy one of those such breaks–and responded with a pinch-hit double. He’s gone 7-8 with 2 HRs and 4 more doubles since then.
“Just the adjustment to the big leagues,” he explained. “The lifestyle and all the attention and exposure, but think I’m starting to settle in a little bit more.”
The added attention plus staying at the field longer–both part of the adjustments all rookies have to make. And part of it is that proverbial “wall” that all rookies run into at some point during their first season.
“Really, baseball is about being able to go out and perform your best without thinking about it,” said DeJong. “Just trust in your preparation and trust that you can go out there and get the job done when the situation comes.”
With his initial taste of big league life when he was called up earlier in the year and this recent chance to catch his breath, the 23-year old infielder feels he’s getting into a more settled routine–especially at home.
“You just have to trust in yourself,” continued DeJong. “I think I’ve broken through that wall and now it’s just about managing every day and coming to the park with the right attitude.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports